The Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) is the largest opposition political party in Zambia. MMD was initially created as a pressure group to specifically campaign for the re-introduction of multiparty politics in Zambia. It was conceived on 20th July 1990 at a meeting at the Garden House Hotel in Lusaka. It was created as a loose alliance of several civil society organisations.
The Garden Hotel meeting included various groups, such as the trade union movement, academics, professional bodies and individuals who had held posts under the United National Independence Party (UNIP) government. It was registered as a political party in Lusaka on 4 January 1991. Its subsequent election into power on 31st October 1991 ended the 27 year rule of UNIP under former president Kenneth Kaunda. It ruled for 20 years until it lost the elections of 23rd September 2011.
Party Genesis and the first election
In 1990, growing opposition to UNIP’s monopoly on power, due in part to food shortages and a general economic decline led to the rise of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD). Begun as a coalition party with the specific goal of ousting UNIP, MMD gradually assembled an increasingly impressive group of important Zambians, including prominent UNIP defectors and labour leaders.
During that same year, pushed by internal and international pressure, President Kaunda agreed to a referendum on the one-party state but, in the face of continued opposition, dropped the referendum and signed a constitutional amendment making Zambia a multi-party state.
Zambia’s first multi-party elections for parliament and the presidency since the 1960s were held on October 31, 1991. MMD candidate Frederick Chiluba resoundingly carried the presidential election over Kenneth Kaunda with 81% of the vote. To add to the MMD landslide, in the parliamentary elections the MMD won 125 of the 150 elected seats and UNIP the remaining 25.
MMD and the second election
By the end of Chiluba’s first term as president (1996), the MMD’s commitment to political reform had faded in the face of re-election demands. MMD began to fall apart as a number of prominent politicians founded opposing parties.
Relying on the MMD’s overwhelming majority in parliament, President Chiluba in May 1996 pushed through constitutional amendments that eliminated former President Kaunda and other prominent opposition leaders from the 1996 presidential elections. In the presidential and parliamentary elections held in November 1996, Chiluba was re-elected, and the MMD won 131 of the 150 seats in the National Assembly. Kaunda’s UNIP boycotted the parliamentary polls to protest the exclusion of its leader from the presidential race, alleging in addition, that the outcome of the election had been predetermined due to a faulty voter registration exercise.
Despite the UNIP boycott, the elections took place peacefully, and five presidential and more than 600 parliamentary candidates from 11 parties participated. Afterward, however, several opposition parties and non-governmental organizations declared the elections neither free nor fair. As President Chiluba began his second term in 1997, the opposition continued to reject the results of the election amid international efforts to encourage the MMD and the opposition to resolve their differences through dialogue.
Early in 2001, supporters of President Chiluba mounted a campaign to amend the constitution to enable Chiluba to seek a third term of office. Civil society, opposition parties, and many members of the ruling party exerted sufficient pressure on Chiluba to force him to back away from any attempt at a third term.
MMD and the third election
Presidential, parliamentary, and local government elections were held on December 27, 2001. Eleven parties contested the elections. The elections encountered numerous administrative problems with opposition parties alleging that serious irregularities occurred. Nevertheless, the MMD won 27.5% of popular votes and 69 out of 159 parliamentary seats. Its candidate for the presidential elections, Levy Mwanawasa, received 29.1% of the vote and was declared the victor by a narrow margin. He was sworn into office on January 2, 2002.
Three parties submitted petitions to the High Court, challenging the election results. The petition remained under consideration by the courts in February 2003 when it was ruled that while there had been irregularities these had not been large enough to affect the outcome; thus the result was upheld. Opposition parties won a majority of parliamentary seats in the December, 2001 election, but subsequent by-elections and liberal use of government patronage to secure the support of opposition MPs gave the ruling MMD a slim majority in Parliament.
2006 Presidential and Parliamentary elections
In the 28 September 2006 National Assembly election results the party won 74 out of 159 seats. Its presidential candidate, Levy Mwanawasa, won 43.0% of the vote.
Presidential elections 2008
Following the sudden death of Levy Mwanawasa on the 19th of August 2008 due to a stroke, early presidential elections were held in which the candidate for Movement for Multi-Party Democracy, Rupiah Banda, won with 40.09% of the national vote, narrowly defeating Michael Sata of the Patriotic Front who received 38.13% of the national vote, by a margin of just 1.96%.
Presidential elections 2011
After 20 years of being in power, the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy and its candidate Rupiah Banda, lost power to Michael Sata of the Patriotic Front who received 44% of the national vote, by a margin of about 8%. On 25 May 2012, Dr Nevers Mumba was elected fourth President of the MMD.
For a more comprehensive history, please refer to the research paper below entitled “The Evolution and Development of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy in Zambia” by Jotham C Momba & Clever Madimutsa under the auspices of the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), an independent non-government think-tank. The paper was published in 2009. You can download the paper directly here: The Evolution and Development of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy in Zambia. Please be patient as the paper loads below.